Tuesday, February 08, 2011

By their words ye shall know them.

"As the movement to eliminate tenure takes hold, it’s worth asking advocates for dismissal of incompetent teachers whether they think that teachers are the only underperforming public-sector workers. Do they also favor more dismissals of subpar police officers and firefighters?" -Mark Rosenman
Do I want incompetent cops and firefighters canned? This guy must have a PhD or a Masters, because only an Ed. major with a postgrad degree could ask such a dumbass question.

No, Zippy, I want Clouseau investigating my murder and Fire Marshal Bill putting out my flaming house...

...in much the same way I want you teaching the neighborhood urchins.

(H/T to Unc.)


Jim said...

More? How about all?


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

A thought process that says, "With my life choices I will burden the public treasury more than I contribute to it."

Lewis said...

In all fairness, there's no indication that Rosenman is a teacher. Of course, as Grandpa used to say, "Figger the odds, boy."

Joseph said...

I'll go further and admit I'm in favor of dismissal of private sector incompetent employees as well. Of course that usually happens naturally, private sector usually separates their own chaff and doesn't have to be forced to by political pressures (otherwise known as "we'll vote your deadwood ass out of office if you don't start making moves).

Bram said...

How about the hundreds of thousands of drones snoozing away in the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, Health and Human Services, HUD, Transportation, etc...?

Our (ha) federal government currently employs close to 2 million civilians. Yeesh.

Matt G said...

As a major proponent of competency in public service, I'll take that challenge. Fire those who are subpar, and promote those who excel.

While you're at it, double teachers' salaries, and at the same time raise the standards to become a teacher.

Anonymous said...

Because I can post anonymously (thank you Tam); Teachers salaries should be determined by a MARKET. (Not "double"d if we were to suddenly allow incompetence to be disincentivized.)In my household I would need to take a second job if that happened. But it would be a baby step toward making the education sector partly rational. And, if it's educating people shouldn't it actually -be- rational?

Anonymous said...

And to "revise and extend" my "double" comment; The more I volunteer in my affluent suburbs public schools the more I question my Libertarian background on merit pay. Student success is dependent on quality teachers but quality teachers seldom overcome the effect of factors like violent home situations, lack of decent food, and varying needs in terms of social ability, maturity and cognitive capacity. MHO (Mine is an affluent suburban district...)

perlhaqr said...

Do they also favor more dismissals of subpar police officers and firefighters?

Is this really supposed to be a question?

Matt G: While you're at it, double teachers' salaries, and at the same time raise the standards to become a teacher.

But allow people to test out of the requirements to have an "Education Degree", to solve the problem of aerospace engineers not being able to get jobs teaching math.

Tam said...


In fairness, there's more to teaching than just knowing the subject matter.

DirtCrashr said...

...Teachers will have some reason to feel they are being singled out for political purposes. Ya mean you can't spell Union Dues without an Edu. degree? Sheesh, grad students - can't live with 'em , can't dump 'em in a ditch.

BobG said...

"In fairness, there's more to teaching than just knowing the subject matter."

I definitely agree with that; I've seen very knowledgeable people who couldn't teach very well. I've also seen others who, though only knowing the bare minimum, could get it across to students, and inspire students to study and learn more than usual.

Divemedic said...

As a firefighter-paramedic (public sector) and an educator (adult education, private sector), I can tell you that I tire of seeing incompetent coworkers, and I would LOVE to see them terminated.

However, I can also say that it isn't quite so easy. The only metrics used to measure the performance of public employees are politics and cost. Nowhere in the calculation is performance ever considered, even in so-called merit pay systems.

Teaching can be effectively privatized, because the free market can function effectively. Don't like a private school, you can always choose another. Not so with police and fire.

I do not know what the answer is. For those that feel we can make do with no cops or firefighters, look at Somalia. For those who feel that the police and fire departments can be totally private, look to American history, and see what a disaster it was. (hint: Ben Franklin was fire chief of a for profit fire company)
I know that the way we do it is not very efficient, but I can't come up with a better idea. Suggestions?

theirritablearchitect said...

"...In fairness, there's more to teaching than just knowing the subject matter..."

It helps when they do, however, and to be quite honest, I was in a class where the "teacher" didn't know dick, and it was obvious.

williamthecoroner said...

Funny. I'm a practicing physician, who teaches physicians, nurses, undergrads, and graduate students. I am not considered qualified by the State of Ohio to teach science in the public schools.

There is something messed up in that.

Anonymous said...

As for doubling teacher salaries...


Tirno said...

I was a physics TA at my university as an undergrad.

I tutored the intro CompSCi courses.

I've taught hundreds to Salsa and Merenge.

A few dozen USAF officers know the difference between their military right and their military left because of drill practices I led.

I couldn't teach in a public school because I'm insufficiently credentialed. Ain't that somethin'?

Joshkie said...

This what you gt when you teach kids to go with the flow instead of how to think critically and with logic. You get someone who couldn't tie two thoughts together to save there life.


Ed Foster said...

I'd say Divemedic pretty much covered my ambivalence on the subject. My mother's side of the family have been teachers for more than a century, and I frittered away two years as a sub in the Hartford school system before I got a life.

To effectively gauge teacher performance you would need a metric that would be very un-PC.

IQ is only the size of the tank, not the capacity of the pump filling it, but without it being part of the calculation you end up with the situation we have here in
Connecticut. We spend far more money per each on kids in the 65 to 90 range than we do on average or superior kids, and it doesn't work.

To quote Patrick Moynahan, it's "defining deviancy downwards". Poor parenting and teaching can make a smart kid dumb, but you can't make a dumb kid smart.

The average IQ of the kids I taught was 73, and a third of them could have offed me and gotten away with it, because at 65 you recieve a Get Out Of Jail Free card, meaning you are legally judged incapable of making a rational action.

Connecticut pushes education much more strongly than most other states, and the annual reports on student proficency causes weeks of soul searching and finger pointing.

We have the Gold Coast down in the south-west, filled with big bucks liberal expatriate New Yorkers (but then, I repeat myself). Nothing is too good for their kids, no expense is too great, and they do well in the achievment tests. As well as, but not better than, the farm towns in the rural northeast,northwest, and Middlesex County. Farmers are smart, and annual expenditure per child in Pomfret or Madison is only about half that of Hartford or New Haven.

To Sir With Love was quite a pretty story, but it wasn't even close to true. Father Flanigan of Boys Town said that if you haven't reached a kid by the age of 13, you never would. I think any teacher who has worked with troubled students would agree.

Jean Piaget called the years from 7 to 12 the period of concrete operations. It also seems to be the last time a child can learn a new language without an accent, and the last time acceptable behavior can be taught. Certain windows are opened and closed at genetically predetermined times.

The abstract thought common to the 13 year old and older (Piaget's Period Of Formal Operation) doesn't happen among the less intelligent, because they simply lack the processing capability needed for uptake.

What's ther answer? Bright but troubled kids need lots of structure. Slow kids need work oriented programs, which would substitute by-rote memorization for flexible though.

The fellow who runs the cash register and bags my food at the local supermarket is a borderline severe, perhaps a 70, but he does a fine job, albeit at the cost of having to listen to the same preprogrammed chat 3 times a week. The same chat offered to the person in front of me, and behind.

Parochial schools almost always outperform public schools, for about half the cost per student. It becomes a lot easier when you don't accept troubled or remedial students. Instead of hypopthetical flights of fancy, wht not just look at what works?

DirtCrashr said...

My Dad the shop-teacher with a PhD in pedagogical training had low-ranking when they closed his school so they could spend more money on Administrators, and had to spend his last five or so career years teaching as a substitute. He would often be called to "teach" (babysit) a class in something like French or German about which he knew nothing - or Math about which he was more competent than necessary. In those cases his day was spent telling students to, "Open your books to page XYZ and read..." It was a terrible way to go into retirement.

Steve Skubinna said...

Oh, NYT, figures. Yeah, Sparky, we only want to fire incompetent teachers. Sure, we're fine with corrupt or incompetent cops and firefighters. Also TSA and IRS and DMV and public utilities employees.

Thanks for asking, glad to clear it up.

Anonymous said...

If the gentleman is an educator, he has missed his calling. He is a defacto union thug, an activist, an organizer.

He is a mouthpiece and facilitator and apologist for those like himself to whom "public service" means service by the public rather than to it.

Hell, he could be president.


Ancient Woodsman said...

Unfortunately, without appropriate quality control on behalf of the populace, what you eventually end up with is Inspector Clouseau on the fire engine & Fire Marshal Bill doing the criminal investigations.

Our family is full of generations of firefighters, teachers, and cops. The premise of the article holds no water. Most states now have continuous performance requirements attached to the certifications of full-time firefighters & police officers; there is no psychological exam, PT test, equipment competency test, or skills proficiency test required on even a semi-annual basis for almost all teachers. Spare me please about the occassional 'workshops'.

Apples & oranges; reminds me of the liberal argument of 'let's license guns like we do cars'. How about we treat teaching like LE & firefighting and require more stringent entrance requirements (including the psych test) AND continuing education/skills performance requirements as is done with most LE & fire positions? Throw in the random drug testing, too. Furthermore - as with fire & LE professions - make it mandatory loss of certifications for exhibiting various forms of unacceptable behaviors.

Sure there are firefighters who end up being arsonists and there's always the stellar examples in the IMPD, but clearly society is 'on' to something when we can have such stringent hiring requirements for a particular job and folks still want to sign up. Maybe if we do the same for teaching they will get more applicants, keep more satisfied hires, do a better job, and last longer at it.

Or maybe the unions will win and the most they'll get is less requirements, more job security, and more of OUR tax money...for less job performance.

Anonymous said...

Umm, not wanting to stand in the way of a knee-jerk reaction an all, (a fine way to get kicked in the crotch,) but Mr Rosenman's second paragraph goes on to say:

"As a public school parent, I favor getting rid of incompetent teachers. But until we are ready to define and consistently apply fair standards for individual accountability for all kinds of public-sector outcomes, teachers will have some reason to feel they are being singled out for political purposes." (Emphasis mine.)

Which is fair enough, isn't it? So it seems that the statement: "Do they also favor more dismissals of subpar police officers and firefighters?" was a rhetorical one. Yes, of course they do, so why are these measures only focused on teachers?

Would I draw flak for suggesting we turn the heat down on the tar barrel and put them chickens back where we found 'em?


Tam said...


"Yes, of course they do, so why are these measures only focused on teachers?"

Have you read Ancient Woodsman's comment? It's pertinent to yours.

Anonymous said...

More pertinent was someone else's comment above that education more than just about any "public service" lends itself to privatization.

Very successful voucher programs in Fla and elsewhere are proving that more is less when it comes to throwing money at societal problems under the guise of education. Elimination of a system that has become essentially a quasi-parenting, babysitting and political/pc innoculation system with our stolen dollars along with all the attendant administrative waste and incompetence, is the answer here.

As for the parallel example of LE and FF? God spare us from the type of systemic failure and ongoing deterioration of the career path of proud and brave individuals who are rapidly being replaced by droids and dummies. Another layer or ten of administration far removed from the real-world classroom and actual, you know, learning?

Yeah, that'll fix edu right up.


staghounds said...

Actually he's not a teacher, he's some sort of software consultant and an accountant by training.

His town in 2009 was in a battle about whether to keep the school board appointed or make it elective.

You know, expand democracy.

Guess where he falls on that issue?

"The drive to put on the November ballot the change to make the School Board elective benefited, perhaps decisively, from the recent news that the School Board paid the Superintendent a bonus. I’m not sure of the merits of the bonus decision. But the fact is that the amount involved is a miniscule portion of our school budget. Which goes to my basic objection to making this change.

An elected school board will focus more on hot button, largely symbolic issues that seem easy to understand and get people riled up. We’ll see people run for school board as a stepping stone to other elected office. The abysmal record of judicial performance where judges are elected instead of appointed should serve as a warning. At the School Board meetings I’ve attended I’ve been impressed by the Board’s attentiveness and knowledge of the issues."

Yes, democracy is not for everyone.

Heather said...

As a teacher who believes that our current teacher evaluation is crap, I have spent a lot of time and brain bytes on objective ways to assess teacher quality, and all I have come up with thus far is that it's a very complicated matter that would require a lot of $$$ and research and time to do correctly.

Geodkyt said...

Ed Foster said. . .

February 8, 2011


Parochial schools almost always outperform public schools, for about half the cost per student. It becomes a lot easier when you don't accept troubled or remedial students.


Except, parochial schools were doing it even when the local Catholic school was often the "School of Last Resort", one step above Reform School.

When I was learning from the nuns (and I am not THAT old), we used to regularly get in the kids who had been kicked out of public school.

Of course, that was ONLY "troubled" or "remiedial" students. . . SPED classes weren't something they offered at my school

Of course, that was before mainstreaming had hit full stride -- this nation went from 20% of disabled children being in public schools AT ALL (including segregated SPED classes -- the wing of the public Junior High I went to after Catholic school was STILL called "Moron Hall" and STILL acted as a self-contained storage area for ALL students with intellectual disabilities severe enough they weren't going to get a standard HS diploma) to about 60% of all disabled children being in conventional public school settings.

Since teh 20% or so of disabled children previously attending public schools was overwhelmingly comprised of physically disabled kids (such as mobility disabilities, partial sensory disabilities, or those developmental or cognitive disabilities that could still function in a classroom setting with very few accomodations), that means teh problem did not become three times harder for teh schools -- it's more like an order of magnitude. Quite literally, 2/3rds of the children with disabilities would have been wholly written off as public schooling (of ANY sort) being inapprorpate for them, and warehousing in a secure facility the only choice for many.

But, Catholic schools can still move into an urban blight area, pull students from the SAME population of non-SPED students, and students of the Catholic schools will STILL tend to out perform their counterparts in the local public school, even when adjusting to ensure you are truly looking at apples and apples, not comparing a student from a broken home with illiterate parents to the daughter of a Vietnamese math prodigy who immigrated in a rubber boat in 1975.

SOME of teh parochial school affect can be explained by stating (rightly) that at least there is SOME reasonable assurance of parental involvement. Even the poorest family ONLY attending because they have a 100% scholarship and its closer than the PS, at least they made the choice to give enough of a damn to sign the papers where the stickies are.